Times tables check: what do I need to know?

New information about the upcoming key stage 2 times tables check was published in November. So what do we know so far?

Aidan Severs

Times tables

We’ve known about the proposed key stage 2 multiplication check for a while now, but have so far been waiting for more information about exactly what the check will entail. With the publishing of the 2018 'Key stage 2 multiplication tables check assessment framework' this month, we now have a greater insight into what we can expect of the tests. 

What is the purpose of the multiplication tables check?

The 2014 National Curriculum states that:

"By the end of year 4, pupils should have memorised their multiplication tables up to and including the 12 multiplication table and show precision and fluency in their work."

And that:

"Pupils should be taught to recall multiplication and division facts for multiplication tables up to 12 × 12."

The purpose of the multiplication tables check (MTC) is to determine whether year 4 pupils can fluently recall multiplication tables in accordance with the above objectives. However, it will only assess the instant recall of multiplication facts – division facts will not be tested in the check.

When will the multiplication tables check be introduced and who will take it?

The MTC will be introduced in June 2020 (2019/20 academic year) subject to the approval of parliament. This means that children currently in year 3 who are registered at maintained schools, special schools or academies (including free schools) in England will be taking the test as a statutory requirement. However, if schools should wish to trial the MTC, it will be available as a voluntary check in the 2018/19 academic year.

Schools will be able to access the check during a three-week window in June, during which time they can choose when they administer the check.

What is the framework document?

The framework document which has just been published is primarily to provide guidance to those who will be developing the tests. The purpose of this guidance is to ensure that "valid, reliable and comparable assessments can be constructed each year". Although the framework is for those creating the assessments, it also contains useful information for school leaders and teachers about the MTC.

How will the multiplication tables check be delivered?

Schools will need to have a secure and reliable internet connection and access to computers or tablets in order to be able to administer the test, as the MTC will be delivered as an "online, on-screen digital assessment".

Under standard administration (this hinting at the fact that some children may be allowed extra time), the check will take each pupil less than five minutes to complete.

What will the multiplication tables check look like?

  • There will be 25 questions worth one mark each. The questions will be in no particular order.
  • Every question will follow the same format and will require the same type of response e.g. 4 x 8 = 32
  • Children will have a maximum of six seconds to answer each question – this is based on research undertaken by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA). There will be a three-second pause before the next question is displayed.
  • The emphasis will be on the "6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 multiplication tables", with two to four questions in every test taken from each of the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 multiplication tables, meaning that between 18 and 22 questions will focus on KS2 content.
  • There will be no question reversals in any test. For example, "3 × 8 would not appear in the same form as 8 × 3".
  • Children will be randomly assigned a test. The system will provide a range of tests, equal in difficulty, but with different questions in different orders. No test should have more than 30 per cent of the same questions as another test.
  • Children will be able to access a "practice area" in the run up to the test window in June. This is so children can become familiar with the format of the test.

How will the results be used?

The check will be automatically scored and schools will be provided with the individual results. Interestingly, there will be no expected standard threshold, although schools will be provided with information about the number and percentage of pupils who achieve full marks. This suggests that the ‘pass mark’ will be 25 out of 25.

Data gained from the tests will be used much in the same way as the data from other statutory primary assessment points, although it will not be published in school performance tables.

The data will be used in the following ways:

  • "school-level results and individual pupil results will be made available to schools"
  • "school-level results will be available to selected users including Ofsted via the Analyse School Performance (ASP) data system"
  • "national and local authority results will be reported by the DfE"

Are there any further supporting documents?

An assessment and reporting arrangements document (ARA) containing further information will be published in autumn 2019. An MTC administration guidance document will also be available before the national voluntary rollout in the current academic year.

Aidan Severs is a deputy head at a primary school in the North of England

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Aidan Severs

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